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timtyler comments on In Praise of Boredom - Less Wrong

23 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 January 2009 09:03AM

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Comment author: timtyler 19 June 2012 01:03:43AM *  1 point [-]

As for memetics, the idea impressed me when I first came across it, but there doesn't seem to have been much development in the field since then. I am no longer impressed. In any case, the main reason memes "propagate" is that they help a brain fulfill its desires in some way, so really ever-evolving memes are just another one of the human mind's tools in its continuing quest for universal domination.

From a biological perspective, brains are seen as being a way for genes and memes to make more copies of themselves.

That this is a valuable point of view is illustrated by some sea squirts - which digest their own brains to further their own reproductive ends.

In nature, genes are fundamental, while brains are optional and expendable.

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 19 June 2012 03:46:34PM -1 points [-]

From a biological perspective, brains are seen as being a way for genes and memes to make more copies of themselves....

...In nature, genes are fundamental, while brains are optional and expendable.

Genes are biologically fundamental, certainly. You will get no argument from me there (although the fact that brains are biologically expendable does not imply that it is moral to expend them). The evidence that memes are more fundamental than brains, however, is not nearly as strong.

It is quite possible to model memes as "reproducing," by being passed from one brain to another. But most of the time the reason the meme is passed from one brain to another is because they aid the brain in fulfilling its desires in some way. The memes associated with farming, for instance, spread because they helped the brain fulfill its desire to not starve. In instances where brains stopped needing the farming memes to obtain food (such as when the Plains Indians acquired horses and were suddenly able to hunt bison more efficiently) those memes promptly died out.

There are parasitic memes, cult ideologies for instance, that reproduce by exploiting flaws in the brain's cognitive architecture. But the majority of memes "reproduce" by demonstrating their usefulness to the brain carrying them. You could say that a meme's "fitness" is measured by its usefulness to its host.

Comment author: timtyler 20 June 2012 12:15:42AM *  1 point [-]

You could say that a meme's "fitness" is measured by its usefulness to its host.

That wouldn't be terribly accurate, though. Smoking memes, obesity memes, patriotism memes, and lots of advertising and marketing memes are not good for their hosts, but rather benefit those attempting to manipulate them. However, there's usually a human somewhere at the end of the chain today.

That probably won't remain the case, though. After the coming memetic takeover we are likely to have an engineered future - and then it will be memes all the way down.

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 20 June 2012 10:03:38PM -1 points [-]

That probably won't remain the case, though. After the coming memetic takeover we are likely to have an engineered future - and then it will be memes all the way down.

The memetic takeover you describe would just consist of intelligences running on computer-like substrates instead of organic substrates. That isn't morally relevant to me, I don't care if the creatures of the future are made of carbon or silicon. I care about what sort of minds they have, what they value and believe in.

I'm not sure referring to an intelligent creature that is made of computing code instead of carbon as a "meme" is true to the common definitions of the term. I always thought of memes as contagious ideas and concepts, not as a term to describe an entire intellect.

After the memetic takeover there would still be intelligent creatures, they'd just run on a different substrate. Many of them could possibly be brain-like in design or have human-like values. They would continue to exchange memes with each other just as they did before, and those memes would spread or die depending on their usefulness to the intelligent creatures. Just like they do now.

Comment author: timtyler 21 June 2012 11:45:05PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not sure referring to an intelligent creature that is made of computing code instead of carbon as a "meme" is true to the common definitions of the term.

People don't call the works of Shakespeare a "meme" either. Conventionally, such things are made of memes - and meme products.